maarmie's musings

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On knowing just enough to be a danger to my liver

nurse: Yes, is this maarmie?

maarmie: Yes.

nurse: You called earlier with a question about some lab results?

maarmie: Yes. I was looking over the results last night and I'm sure you're tired of hearing this but I was on Yahoo! Health trying to figure out what my results mean and I'm a little concerned about my red blood cell...

nurse (terse): Uh...what did (the woman who initially called you about the results) tell you about them?

maarmie: She told me the results "came back fine," but I was on Yahoo! Health and my red blood cells...

nurse (more terse): I'm going to have to get with the doctor and tell her you have questions about your lab results because you were reading Yahoo! Health.

maarmie (unsure): Uh, ok. Bye.


Three months ago, a woman in white with an awful chairside disposition (she wouldn't give me candy for being a big girl!) robbed me of a few vials of blood so my cholesterol, blood sugar level, red and white blood cells and about 400 million other things could be tested. My body appears to be nearly indestructible when the results are weighed against my near total inactivity and the avalanche of fat, sugar and carbohydrates I have wallowed in in recent years. Blood sugar level: stellar. Sodium, potassium, chloride, carbon dioxide, calcium, protein and albumin levels: also stellar. Bad cholesterol: I've got it in a super death grip! However...

Four categories are marked with a little "H" for "high": MCH and RDW (scores of 34.4 and 18.8 when "normal" is 27-34 and 11.7-15.0, respectively), bilirubin (a score of 1.7 when "normal" is 0.1-1.2) and ALT (a score of 42 when "normal" is 0-40), and my HDLs (good cholesterol) are 35, below the "normal" range of 40-59.

After reading Yahoo! Health for about three hours last night, I am convinced I'm standing on the edge of some sort of dirt cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon and that it's raining hard and the dirt is turning into mud, slippery mud, and that I'm sliding toward the edge of the cliff and that there's noone out there who can help me and I'm sliding, sliding, sliding and wearing some kind of high heel with no traction and there's not a tree, not a bush, not even a fucking flower to grab onto.

I just know my body is turning against itself with some wild, as-of-yet-diagnosable or treatable strain of hepatitis or possibly anemia, major liver failure or, worse yet, polycythemia vera. I'm practically just sitting here waiting for my large and many red blood cells to plot against me and clot a major and important artery or vein or whatever and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Yahoo! Health is a godsend for borderline hypochondriacs like myself. That site is so understandable and user friendly that, for years, I have had the advantage of click click clicking my way to terminal illness instead of bugging an actual doctor every other week or so. It really cuts down on my copayment budget when I can diagnose myself and translates into money saved for important things like CDs or candy.

When I lived in New York, I developed tremors in my arms and legs and enjoyed numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. For more than a year, I waited for the tremors and numbness to come back after they left me and for them to worsen and began mentally preparing myself for the eventual bumps into stationary objects and falls as multiple sclerosis overtook my body and slowly, yet deliberately, rendered me helpless and confined to a wheelchair.

Turns out, it was just stress. Cleared right up when I moved to Portland. I may have been wrong, but at least I had the benefit of beginning to prepare for the worst. I would have made a kick ass Girl Scout.

Update: 3:59 p.m. - I talked to the nurse who talked to the doctor who read my lab results in their entirety...again. Nurse assures me that doctor assures me that about 10 percent of people with "normal" results test "abnormal" in one area. According to doctor, I was only "one point" above the upper limit for "normal" in all the categories (in fact, I believe I was two points above "normal" in the ALT category) and that I am supposedly OK. Whatever. They just don't want to face the facts or deliver the bad news. I gotcha. I'll just die of liver failure or hepatitis so they don't have to be in the uncomfortable position of telling someone as young as myself that I will be dead before my next birthday. Which is on Friday. No biggie. I'll just start digging the hole.


Maarmie's Boss said...

Dental Hygenist: Now that's a bad tooth.
Me: How bad?
DH: When's the last time you had your teeth cleaned?
Me: Um...six, seven....years...
DH: You smoke? I can take care of those nicotine stains. But not the color.
Me: Is it noticable?
DH: Hmm-mmm.
Me: What's going to happen to my tooth? Can it be saved?
DH: Wow, those are really cute sandals!

That was today. Dentist came in and said I need a root canal. And a crown.

Next week is the doctor appointment. For my skin, my lungs, my sore throat, exhaustion, etc. (and the inevitable lecture about never having had a cholesterol test, or any of those tests you took, Maarm. and of course they are going to yell at me for not taking vitamins. and for not getting a mammogram. and for smoking. and not exercising. and not doing monthly breast self exams)whatever.

There are hypochondriacs. And then there are people who probably could benefit from spending a few minutes on Yahoo Health. Like me.

Squidley said...

You live in Portland? I hate you! I want to move back, but work in my field is hard to arrange in specific cities.

So, is it the real Portland, or one of the fake ones?

maarmie said...

I can assure you it was the real one. I worked at the Oregonian while I lived there, but now I live in Florida. I miss it, but I'm glad I left.

Chris said...

You and my wife are kindred spirits. I'm glad you have Yahoo Health because if you didn't you'd proabably take up something more destructive like Rodeo Clowning.

Squidley said...

Ah, in that case, I no longer hate you. In fact, I now feel pity for you. The Little Woman used to live in Orlandisney, and her stories make Florida sound repulsive (so do Dave Barry's). Plus, a Bush is the governor, and you have almost as many illegals as we do here in the People's Republic of Mexifornia.

maarmie said...

Rodeo clowning? Nah! Maybe we'd be cutters...

maarmie said...

Oh, and this is for "my boss." Sounds like you need to get your act together, young lady. I'll expect a full report on my desk by 5 on Monday.

maarmie said...

Squidley: Hm. Jeb. Yep. I work in the same building and I've passed within inches of him on several occasions. I must give him uncontrollable dirty/disgusted looks because he always seems very very jumpy and/or afraid when I am near. And his bodyguards instinctively reach for their guns. What's that all about?

I grew up in the Tampa Bay area but now live in north Florida, which is better than central or south Florida any day.

Anonymous said...

Maarmie has a secret crush on Jeb(!).

maarmie said...

I love his huge watermelon head. *sigh!*